2.5 Architectural illustrators

The purpose of this exercise was to research a range of different architectural illustrators and identify how their choice of drawing approach, perspective and materials relates to the architecture itself.

Key words from the brief:

  • Identify how their choice of drawing approach, perspective and materials relates to the architecture itself.
  • These choices might support the underlying ideas behind the buildings
  • You might find examples where you think illustrators have used approaches that seem at odds with the spaces they’re representing
  • Pick a range of examples and write a short critical statement (50–200 words) on each of them outlining your observations.


The purpose of architectural illustration is to to help architects visualise their ideas. The Society for Architectural Illustrators sums the discipline as “A powerful tool that taps into our need to imagine or visualise, architectural illustration, in common with all forms of architectural representation, allows the viewer to see into the future”.

I selected the four illustrators below because their work demonstrates some of the different types of visual language employed in this genre of illustration. The approaches range from quite technical representations of buildings and spaces with extremely accurate lines and measurements through to illustrative drawings where the image is interpretive and the picture is designed to present something more than just a visually accurate design.

Jonathan Leavens

Jonathan Leavens graduated in Landscape Architecture and subsequently did an Urban design course.

Kitchen garden sketch - Jonathan Leavens
Fig 1 – Kitchen garden sketch

His work is quite technical involving a high degree of draftsmanship and accuracy. Whilst the underlying design is highly accurate the visual language employed does take liberties with reality in very stylised way. For example the skyline of the house in the background of the image is shown through a transparent wash of colour applied to a tree, and whilst the garden is painted in full realistic colour the building in the background is left as raw white paper.

This kind of image might be used as client visuals. It gives an idea of what the space might feel like whilst retaining it’s accuracy, detail and authority.

It shows a design that is highly polished with no loose ends. It’s not asking questions or suggesting options, it’s telling us what the finished work will look like.

Michael Blower

Michael Blower was an architect who practiced during the second half of the 20th Century in Surrey. He was a prolific urban sketcher recording the people and architecture in and around Farnham the in Surrey . A growing archive of his work from a sixty year period can be found online at VADs, the online resource for visual arts.

I’ve selected these images from this fabulous resource because they are fairly representative of the drawings in the archive.

Cambridge Place - Michael Blower
Fig 2 – Cambridge Place (1971)

The first is a drawing of Cambridge Place in Farnham made in 1971. I like the simplicity of the drawing and careful use of different marks to describe light, dark, shape and texture. Lines are used sparingly to describe the scene, which is depicting the life of a street with it’s inhabitants going about their daily business as much as it is about the buildings and architecture.


The subject matter and composition of the second image is almost identical to the first. This one was made 22-years later in 1993 and uses quite a different visual language to describe the hussle and bussle of a busy street.

Bridge St, Godalming - Michael Blower
Fig 3 – Bridge St, Godalming (1993)

The catalogue entry describes the image as being a “View down Bridge Street, very busy with people, the buildings materials are labelled“.


As well as capturing the feel of the location, the additional notations and labelling provide information of interest to the architect.

This image still has the accuracy of the first but the range of marks is much broader and interpretive, communicating something of the movement and dynamism of the scene. Watercolour wash is used to add colour and depth to the picture.

Simone Ridyard

Simone Ridyard is an architect, senior lecturer in Manchester School of Art and Urban Sketcher.

She describes her work as being “very much about the value of pen, pencil and watercolour in the communication of space and buildings”.

I selected the two examples of her work because they demonstrate the application of a different visual language to achieve a very different effect whilst using the same materials; pen, pencil and watercolour.

St Marks Square, Venice - Simone Ridyard
Fig 4 – St Mark’s Square, Venice

St Mark’s Square in Venice is usually packed with tourists and full of energy surrounded on all sides by beautiful architecture. The first illustration reflects this by using lots energetic mark making with areas of tight detail to describe the crowds of people and curvilinear arches, domes and doorways of the architecture. This is contrasted with the wide open space in the foreground and along the full height of the left hand panel that give the scene a sense of scale and depth. Watercolour is applied very loosely and splattered in some areas. The overall effect is one of energy and movement.

Manchester Skyline - Simone Ridyard
Fig 5 – Manchester skyline

Her depiction of the Manchester skyline is completely different. The picture consists of much more sombre geometric shapes with carefully measured lines and marks and virtually no curves and an even application of watercolour washes of greys and blues.

The image is showing a large and growing metropolitan city, a skyscraper skyline and cranes building a city for the future

Owen Pomery

Owen Pomery trained as an architect and specialises in creating images with architectural narrative. His biography on The Society of Architectural Illustrators website says “He collaborates with clients to create bespoke, atmospheric visions to suit any brief.”

I really like the breadth of work and visual style of his portfolio. It ranges from technically precise illustrative interpretations of Brutalist Architecture through to comic narratives and visualisations.

The two images I selected are from the portfolio of work on his website.

Brutalist Works - Owen Pomery
Fig 6 – Brutalist Works

I chose the first image because I think it is a brilliant visual interpretation of Brutalist architecture, a subject I’ve drawn myself many times. The image could very easily be of the Barbican Centre. What is great about this way the image has been rendered is that it’s all made using vertical parallel lines. The forms are described through different areas of tone created by moving lines closer or further apart and very precise and inventive use of mark making.


The visual style echos the Brutalist architectural style that uses simple repeated geometric shapes and bare building materials i.e. that same visual treatment across the whole building.

Narrative Architecture - Owen Pomery
Fig 7 – Narrative architecture

The second image is describing the interior of a building, presumably visualising a project for a client. The view is of an open plan apartment showing a bedroom and combined kitchen/living room space. The composition of the picture is focused around two glass doors in the background that open out onto a balcony. Moonlight is flooding into the room causing strong shadows across the length of the floor.

The image consists of only three colours. Black line art and two different fill colours.

A young professional couple are in the space. A man is sitting at a drawing board reading and in the foreground a naked women is standing in front of some shelves looking at books. They are very comfortable and relaxed in the space.

This is a great example of where the purpose of the image is not primarily about architectural design but about what it feels like to occupy and use the space. I can imagine that this image might have been used to either pitch the idea as part of a bid process or to market the flats to potential customers.



Society of Architectural Illustrators http://www.sai.org.uk/ (Accessed 04.08.19)

VADS https://vads.ac.uk/collections/TBF.html (Accessed 04.08.19)

List of illustrations

Figure 1 – Leavens, Jonathan Kitchen garden sketch At: http://www.sai.org.uk/member/jonathanleavens/ (Accessed on 04.08.19)

Figure 2 – Blower, Michael (1971) Cambridge Place At: https://vads.ac.uk/large.php?uid=164267&sos=17 (Accessed on 04.08.19)

Figure 3 – Blower, Michael (1993) Bridge St, Godalming At: https://vads.ac.uk/large.php?uid=164267&sos=17 (Accessed on 04.08.19)

Figure 4 – Ridyard, Simone St Mark’s Square, Venice At: http://www.sai.org.uk/member/simoneridyard/ (Accessed on 04.08.19)

Figure 5 – Ridyard, Simone Manchester Skyline At: http://www.sai.org.uk/member/simoneridyard/ (Accessed on 04.08.19)

Figure 6 – Pomery, Owen Brutalist Works At: https://www.owenpomery.com/brutalist-works (Accessed 04.08.19)

Figure 7 – Pomery, Owen Narrative architecture At: https://www.owenpomery.com/narrative-architecture (Accessed 04.08.19)

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